Defining Community Context in Transportation Project Planning and Development Process

Context is the interrelated condition in which something exists in space and time. It encompasses everything about the people, place, and circumstances of a spatial unit, be it a neighborhood, city or region. Community context mirrors the concept of synergy in that the result is greater than the sum of the individual parts. The components of community context consist of both human and environmental factors including social, cultural, economic conditions, demographics, housing and education, public health and safety, natural environment, and resources as well as the built environment and mobility. These aspects are woven together by a set of needs, values, place characteristics, and quality-of-life concerns to create a unique community context for any type or scale of transportation plan or project. As such, understanding and defining community context calls upon transportation practitioners to use both quantitative and qualitative methods to identify both the tangible and intangible aspects of how communities experience their human and natural environments. Transportation professionals need tools to collect and organize community data, including physical features of the natural and human environment as well as information on how communities value these features. Context tools can help practitioners think holistically, critically, and systematically about community context. With this in mind, the primary objective of this project was to provide an inventory of community context tools to transportation practitioners desiring to understand and incorporate community context variables into planning and project development processes. This project included these four major tasks: (1) Solicitation of tools to help define community context; (2) Collection of the tools submitted into a database; (3) Review and synthesis of tools by focus group; and (4) Organization of tools by attributes of interest to practitioners and fact sheets presenting tools in an electronic searchable database. As a result of these tasks, forty-one tools were collected and organized into an online database of resources that can be searched by attribute filters. This database is available at

  • Record URL:
  • Summary URL:
  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This study was requested by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and conducted as part of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Project 25-25. Project 25-25 is intended to fund quick response studies on behalf of the AASHTO Standing Committee on the Environment.
  • Corporate Authors:

    North Carolina State University, Raleigh

    Center for Transportation and the Environment
    Raleigh, NC  United States  27695-8601

    Planning Communities, LLC


    Louis Berger Group, Incorporated

    412 Mount Kemble Avenue
    P.O. Box 1946
    Morristown, NJ  United States  07962
  • Authors:
    • Lane, Leigh
    • Hartell, Ann
    • Townsend, Teresa
    • Steedly, Ann
  • Publication Date: 2011-8


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Photos;
  • Pagination: 117p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01497094
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: NCHRP 25-25 Task 69
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Oct 17 2013 3:35PM